|Billy Thorpe, photo courtesy of Taylor Workman|
By: Markus Noé
The Joss Northeast 9 Ball Tour once again kicked off its season on the first weekend of January hosting its $25,000 added Turning Stone Classic. This is held twice a year once in early January and again at the end of August. This tournament routinely features a significant amount of current and former World Champions, U.S Open Champions and other major event winners as well as up and coming players.
For various reason and weather was one of them, this field among casual fans looked like one of the "weakest" fields in recent memory. Big names that jumped off the page as favourites to win were; Jayson Shaw, John Morra, Mika Immonen, Billy Thorpe, Dennis Hatch and Johnny Archer. Outside of this the field was fairly wide open.
Being that this tournament is just a few hours south of the Canadian border, many canucks most from the Montreal, Quebec City, and Greater Toronto Area make their way to participate. As is the case with everything because of how the U.S population of 300 million dwarfs the Canadians at 36 million there are many more travelling American pro's who rely solely on playing pool as a living compared to Canadians. What has always filled me with a certain amount of pride is the amount of high level players we have that sponsor themselves with full time jobs, and few times a year they are able to show up to these major events and hold their own. This past edition of the Turning Stone Classic was no exception to this.
|Martin Daigle Photo courtesy Erin Bechner|
Martin Daigle who could be mentioned as one for the most improved Canadian players of 2017 made a little noise. Him and fellow Québecois Nicholas Charette finished tied for 17th. Daigle owner of a successful roofing company in Québec City called TOITURE ROYALE had a big upset win against John Morra eliminating him from the tournament 9-4. He had successful 2017 making the final of several Falcon Cue's Quebec Tour as well as beating Earl Strickland and Tom Kennedy at the U.S Open. Daigle followed this up by beating 2015 U.S Open Champion Cheng Yu Hsuan at the World Championships.
|Jesse Piercey with Johnny Archer|
Now lets get to the meat and potatoes of this event. There are lots of other story lines to discuss however at risk of writing a 10,000 word report I will discuss the one that had everyone talking. Which of course was the break through performance for the 26 year old Joey Cicero. Cicero holds all the records in the Québec Federation for a player who went from a C ranked player to Professional in only 6 years. The Federation is well known for being one of the main breeding grounds for talent in Canada and not an easy place to obtain a Pro ranking by any means.
|Joey Cicero Photo courtesy of Taylor Workman|
I believe since he began coming to Turning Stone he has not gone one event without cashing, usually in the 9-12 position. He has had several impressive wins to in this event over players such as Shaun Wilkie, Hunter Lombardo, Ko Ping Chung to name a few as well as 9-8 loss to Jayson Shaw. In this tournament he broke through and finished in the 3rd place. On route to this 3rd place finish he was able to finally get that win against his favourite player Jayson Shaw 9-5. In this match it looked like it was not to be for Cicero as he trailed 1-5. However he only needed one chance at the table to turn the tide as Shaw only had a few chances after this point to even come to the table, as Cicero was soft cutting the breaking and basically just running rack after rack.
Once this match was complete he then went on to beat Zion Zvi 9-6 which earned him a showdown with Billy Thorpe in the winners side final. Cicero looking to make his first appearance in a final of a world class field showed little to no nerve quickly taking a 3-1 lead. Thorpe never lead until 5-5 he broke through to 7-5 and it felt like the younger but more experienced American Mosconi Cup team member was going to take control. However Cicero who time after time showed his heart came back to 7-7, it was this rack the 15th of the match that changed the tide of the whole tournament.
It looked as if Cicero was going to run-out a routine rack to get to the hill game first. With how he was breaking it could of very well meant the end of the match for Thorpe. Cicero had a fairly easy shot on the 8 ball, however he is a player not blessed with great height and this shot was just out of reach for him. Thus he reverted to his extension and he missed the shot badly, leaving Thorpe almost at the center of the top rail with no real shot. Somehow Thorpe with over half his body on the table comes with a miracle cut in the the corner, but he had to leave the cue ball lose to do so. With the 9 ball hanging he was most likely thinking that as long as he pots the 8 he wins the game. Unfortunately for Thorpe the cue ball rips around 3 rails and goes right into the heart of the side pocket.
At this moment Thorpe committed a foul by swiping the 9 Ball so hard it flew off the table. In this tournament no games are permitted to be conceded. It comes at the cost of losing the game you conceded plus an extra game penalty. According to these rules Cicero just booked himself into the finals of the tournament. "The Hunter" never said a word about it, he wanted the balls racked and was preparing to break. Tournament officials even had to quiet the crowd down because some of them were literally yelling across the room for Cicero to call the penalty.
I have known Cicero for a few years now, and call him a friend. Personally I feel I know him well enough to say that money is not the issue here for him, as he basically threw away a guaranteed extra $1400. He is not the kind of player who wants to win on a ruling or a technicality nor is he a road player constantly grinding to eat. Cicero just wants to beat all the best players and be known as the best. This is what fuels him and this is what has made him the player he is.
Now unfortunately pool his a heartless game and even though he did an honorable thing this does not always draw favour from the "pool gods." Thorpe went on to win the next rack and then after a break that resulted in a safety exchange that Cicero won it looked as if he was going to run out for the win. However on a routine clearance a hint of nerve perhaps caught up with Cicero and he over hit the cue ball and hooked himself on the 8 ball while playing position to the 7. Thorpe than ran out to win the set and went on to beat fellow Mosconi Cup Teammate Dennis Hatch 13-11 in the final. This was a great match as Thorpe built a sizable early lead and Hatch came storming back to just fall short.
Getting back to the penalty issue, Cicero gained the respect of many as what he did showed incredible sportsmanship. When discussing the uncalled penalty this is what Cicero had to say,
" Billy and I were in a tight battle, it was 7-7 in a race to 9 and we both wanted to get to the finals. I had the rack to get on the hill first, when i got to the 8 ball, I screwed in my extension on my cue to play the 8 ball since it was far up table. I accidentally screwed in my extension crooked which made me miss my 8 ball. I left Billy a hard shot on the 8 ball, he made a great shot on it and scratched. I understood his frustration, it wasn't the way he should of acted, but it was obviously frustrating. I knew the rules, I knew I had the match to go in the finals, but I have respect for Billy and didn't want to earn the win like that. It was obviously a heart breaking loss for me, but I am happy for him. I did not win the tournament, but I won a lot of respect and that's enough for me"
|Runner-up Dennis Hatch, photo courtesy of Taylor Workman|
For full results and pay outs go to http://www.azbilliards.com/tours_and_events/1-joss-northeast-9-ball-tour/7953-turning-stone-classic-xxix-9-ball-open/results/